Selfish gifts: the politics of exchange and English courtly literature, 1580-1628

Alison V. Scott

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Engaging with a wide range of texts on gift-theory, extending from Seneca’s De Beneficiis to Derrida’s Given Time, Selfish Gifts examines the importance of gift ethics and the rhetoric of honorable giving to the literature of late Elizabeth and early Stuart England. It demonstrates that the idea of the freely given and disiniterested gift shaped the language of early modern clientage, along with literary representations of patrons and patronage systems during this period. Selfish Gifts examines how early modern clients moved quickly and strategically to assimilate the language of competition and equality, characteristic of an emerging market economy, within their existing discourses of gift exchange, in order to maximize the rewards they might induce from an increasingly diverse group of patrons.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMadison, N.J.
PublisherFairleigh Dickinson University Press
ISBN (Print)0838640826
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • early modern English literature
  • Elizabethan court
  • Jacobean court
  • gift-exchange
  • court favourites
  • Seneca
  • Shakespeare
  • Jonson


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